Richmond High School – 2010 Winner

Ms. Tukeva has taught dance at Richmond High School for nearly 30 years.  She puts on four dance shows per year:  a Holiday Show, African American History Assembly, Multicultural Night, and the Spring Musical. Over 200 students participate; most have never danced before.

Many of these shows incorporate cultural literacy, ethnic pride, historical awareness, and social consciousness.  For example, her kids performed “A Tribute to New Orleans” after the devastating hurricane Katrina.  Another theme was “Music For the Earth,” in which all of the musical and dance numbers were related to ecology and environmental awareness.  Through the power of the arts the students are able to imagine a better world.

Dance also allows the students of Richmond High to find unity and solace when coping with tragedy.  In 2010, Richmond was ranked the sixth most dangerous city in the nation.  That danger extends to students at Richmond High. With her help, Ms. Tukeva’s students responded to a recent tragedy by putting on a performance in memory of three students who had died.

The show opened with students performing a traditional Latin American dance, followed by a poet:   “Treacherous conditions in the city they call Richmond. Hope, can you find me?”  “Pain is what I know. Hate is what I see. And rage is what I feel, but it does not destroy me. It gives me strength.”

The show continued with a slide show honoring those who died, followed by dancers performing “Man in the Mirror.” When the show ended, all 80 performers returned to the stage dressed in white, “to represent peace and unity.”  Ms. Tukeva believes that dance performances help the students to come together as a community and express their feelings and sorrow: “Our students might not know the specifics, but they know the violence,” she said. “They live with it every day. They express it through words.”

Ms. Tukeva mentors her students and helps them to achieve their goals.  For many years she has connected her students with partners in the entertainment industry resulting in internships.  She has found them jobs as stagehands, sound technicians, lighting operators, and event hostesses. She takes her students to professional and semi-professional dance and theatrical performances in the Bay Area.  Her students themselves have performed in many venues in the community including Contra Costa College and the Richmond Auditorium.